Central Florida

To some, Central Florida is the land of Orlando and theme parks.

To Florida Rambler, it’s a place of incredible natural beauty and history – pristine freshwater springs with manatees, long broad beaches where you can walk for miles without a sign of man, quaint old towns with historic hotels and a national forest that is home to the Florida black bear.

Here are some of our favorite places to begin your exploration of the area. Each of these stories contains links to places to kayak, hike, bicycle and fascinating historic sites.

Mount Dora, a charming small town that is home to antique fairs and festivals that draw people from afar.

The Lake Wales Ridge, a geographic high point in Florida where you’ll find small towns, abundant wildlife, hiking and paddling.

Lakeland, home to Florida Southern College and its 12 structures built by Frank Lloyd Wright, and to Circle B Bar Reserve, a remarkable place to see birds and wildlife.

Daytona Beach, where there is more to see than its famous beach.

Crystal River, a small town on the Gulf Coast dedicated to manatees and the springs that attract them.

Tarpon Springs, best known for its Greek heritage.

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Central Florida, News

It’s firefly season at Blue Springs. Wait, what’s firefly season?

Blue Spring State Park, home to manatees in the winter and a favorite place for a swim in bracing spring water in the summer, will allow visitors to stay after closing during firefly season through early April. If that took you by surprise, you’re with me. But there is a firefly season and Blue Spring, located 35 miles north of Orlando in Orange City, is firefly central.